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Handicap International organises Mapathon to support demining efforts in Laos

Explosive weapons
Laos
Participants taking part in the Mapathon at Handicap International Federation in Lyon

© Catherine Clavel/Handicap International

A Mapathon, organised in partnership with CartONG, took place on 15th February 2017 at Handicap International's Federation headquarters in Lyon, France.

In only 3 hours, the participants were able to map an amazing 320 km of roads and tracks and 130 populated areas (villages or hamlets) in Nong district, Laos. These newly-mapped areas will contribute to Handicap International’s demining programme in the country, which was heavily bombed during the Vietnam War. It is estimated that 270 million of submunitions were dropped on Laos, of which 30% did not explode on impact, heavily polluting a large part of Laos’ territory.

The improved mapping of Laos resulting from the Mapathon will allow:

  • a more precise identification of the location of unexploded ordnance, which still represents a threat for the population
  • a better understanding of the environment, in order to prioritise the destruction of explosive ordnance, especially when they are located close to roads or development areas
  • the swift deployment of demining teams in the dangerous areas, through better knowledge of the routes to reach them.

This collaborative mapping event, which gathered around 40 participants (CartONG volunteers, members of the OpenStreetMap community, friends and relatives of HI staff), is part of Missing Maps, a humanitarian project that preemptively maps parts of the world that are vulnerable to natural disasters, health crisis, environmental crisis, conflicts and poverty.

 

The activity was made possible thanks to OpenStreetMap, a collaborative open data mapping platform which uses satellite imagery to allow users to trace roads, populated places and rivers from anywhere in the world and add them to a common map. This geographical data is essential for decision making and the prioritisation of interventions, not only for Handicap International, but also for all humanitarian organisations in the area.

In the future, Mapathons will be regularly organised at Handicap International's offices in Lyon, with the opportunity for staff and volunteers to come and share this innovative and inspiring experience.


To find out more about Handicap International's mine action activities in Laos, watch the video Laos: The fight against the deadly legacy of U.S. bombing on YouTube, or read the document: Humanitarian Mine Action Strategy LAO PDR (pdf, 915Kb).

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